Whether you are searching for your first job or your next job, first impressions are important. In many cases, your resume, cover letter, and interview will be the first opportunities you have to impress a potential employer. Being prepared is critical to success.

Resumes

Resumes are marketing documents that should deliver a targeted message to your audience. Be prepared to tailor your resumes to prominently highlight skills or past experiences that are relevant to the job or position. The one-size-fits-all approach is not effective. If your skills can be applied to multiple job types (i.e.: business analyst or project manager), consider creating two or three versions of your resume and cover letter so you can easily customize them. And you don’t want your marketing document to look messy or appear outdated. Keep up with current resume trends and adapt accordingly.

Language

Hiring managers and recruiters read many resumes and appreciate clean and concise documents that use clear language, proper grammar, and action verbs. Avoid the passive tense whenever possible, and always focus on accomplishments rather than listing duties and responsibilities.

SEO/Keywords

Recruiting is undergoing rapid digitization. Applicant Tracking Systems, chat bots, or resume application sites require that your resume be specific to the job you are applying for. Be sure to include key words that correlate to specific requirements listed on the job description. Keywords can be hard skills, job-specific descriptions, technical expertise, names of products, services, awards, job-specific jargon, or accomplishments that use the same vocabulary as the job description.

Format

“Less is more" is good advice when creating a resume. Create or choose simple designs that use a maximum of two fonts, and utilize bullet points to highlight achievements and accomplishments. Minimize the use of bold or italic styles, and consider using white space as a design element when possible. Unless you work in a creative industry, the easier it is for hiring managers to read your resume, the better.

Length

Don’t worry so much about the length of your resume and focus on the quality of the content. Relevant and action-oriented content wins out over resume length 90 percent of the time. However, recruiters and hiring managers are busy—many will spend less than 25 seconds reading a resume. It’s critical that you start strong and organize your resume so that the most relevant skills and experience are presented early in the document. In general, students and young professionals with minimal experience should keep resumes brief and concise. It is normal for more experienced job seekers or graduate students to have a resume that is anywhere from 1-3 pages.

Required Content

  • Contact info (keep it basic—address, phone, email, LinkedIn)
  • Experience (start with most recent)
  • Key skills (make sure they match requirements in the job description)
  • Accomplishments
  • Education

Optional Content

  • Objective statements take up space in a medium where space is a premium. Consider using a summary statement instead.
  • If you have room, include volunteer experience—often they highlight transferable skills.
  • If you have room, add interests. Interests in bulleted list add help you stand out.
  • Publications/presentations—use only if relevant and use a formal citation.

Cover Letters

Cover letters are still a critical part of most offline and online hiring processes. A few things to keep in mind when developing a cover letter ...

Simple to read

We are all busy people—both applicants and hiring managers. Make it easy to quickly scan your email. Use bullet points and keep paragraphs to a few sentences.  

Research

Share why you are interested in the position and drop in a few details to show that you did your homework. If you can personalize the email with the hiring manager’s name, all the better.

Make it Relevant

Outline what qualifies you for the job. Mention your current position and the name of the company you work for. Briefly list relevant education or special training, especially if the employer is looking for candidates who have a particular degree or skill set.

LinkedIn

Be sure to link to your LinkedIn profile. Do you have an online portfolio with work samples? Include links to your work.

Resume Attached

This is a big one. Choose the resume format that the company prefers. PDF, text doc—whatever they ask for—deliver it in the format requested. Remember that hiring managers cannot see your entire profile on LinkedIn unless you are connected.

Resumes vs. Curricula Vitae

Resumes are required for most career opportunities. They are usually tailored for different positions and offer an overview of your experience and skill set. Curricula Vitae are more commonly used in academia or when applying to work abroad in certain countries. A CV is a detailed biographic summary of educational background, scholarly activities, and employment experience. More info on CVs can be found here.

Get Advice

Once you think your resume is ready, ask a trusted source to review it and offer constructive suggestions. If you are a student, Texas Career Engagement has a peer career program that can review it. You also can contact your school’s career center for review assistance. Both students and alumni can also use the HookedIn directory to find alumni who are willing to review resumes and offer advice.

Other Resources

Texas Career Engagement Resume, CV examples for undergrads, graduate students, and professional development. Learn more

The Muse Practical advice for finding a job. Learn more

Coaching 4 Good Texas Exes partners with Coaching 4 Good to provide exclusive content and services to members. Learn more

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